Amidst COVID-19 surge, shorthanded Celtics late fight comes up short against Warriors

Prior to Friday night’s game against Golden State, the Celtics lost five players after they were placed into the league’s Health and Safety Protocols.

Boston was also missing Dennis Schroder to a non-Covid related illness. 

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In the 24 hours leading up to the game, five players — forwards Jabari Parker, Juancho Hernangomez, Grant Williams and Sam Hauser, and center Al Horford — all went into the protocols, leaving head coach Ime Udoka with a severely depleted roster to face the red-hot Warriors. 

MORE: NBA COVID-19 tracker

“I wouldn’t say it’s frustrating. It’s something everybody is playing through,”  Udoka said prior to the game. “You’ve seen Chicago and Brooklyn and other teams hit with it.

“It’s something we’ve been trying to avoid, but it seems inevitable at times for everybody. You have to tinker with the lineups at times, but we have other guys who are able, and we’ll increase those minutes. Nothing else you can do. We have 11 healthy bodies.”

Udoka had to ride his starters for long periods — all but Romeo Langford, who left the game with a neck injury, played 33 minutes or more, led by Jayson Tatum’s team-high 42 minutes. Tatum poured in a team-high 27 points, along with eight rebounds and six assists. 

Despite being short-handed, Boston managed to fight its way back from 20 points down late in the second quarter to take an 84-82 lead at the start of the fourth. 

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Golden State went on to pull away, incidentally led by Andre Iguodala and Damion Lee, for the 111-107 win. The Celtics could have won the game if not for eight missed free throws in the second half. 

Postgame, Udoka said of Boston’s comeback attempt while missing six players: “Loved the fight and effort overall.”  

Boston drops to 14-15 on the season, with games against the Knicks, the 76ers, and the Cavaliers to close out their home stand before Christmas. 

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